GUATEMALA CITY – About 100 people participated on Thursday in an ancient Maya peace ritual, marking the 20th anniversary of the signing of the agreements that ended Guatemala’s 1960-1996 civil war.
Mayan spiritual leaders went to the Kaminal Juyu archaeological site in Guatemala City’s Zone 7 to call for peace, understanding and harmony among the Central American nation’s people.
The leaders, who traveled to the capital from across the country, joined in calling for an end to killings of Indians.
Undersecretary for Peace Rigoberto Casasola, who represented the government at the ceremony, said the 12 peace agreements included recognition of Indians’ identity and rights.
“This is part of the agreements and the Sepaz (Peace Secretariat) supports the ancestral groups from which many of the priests who perform these kinds of ceremonies come. They have a spiritual and Maya content,” Casasola said.
Former President Alvaro Arzu’s administration and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG) guerrilla group signed the peace agreements ending the nation’s civil war on Dec. 29, 1996, after five years of negotiations.
The peace accords called for extensive reforms designed to limit the military’s role in government, prevent human rights abuses, improve respect for Indian rights, assimilate former combatants into society and improve the judiciary, among other things.
The UN special mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA), which operated until 2002, was responsible for monitoring the peace process and compliance with the peace agreements.
A February 1998 report by the Truth Commission, which investigated human rights violations committed during Guatemala’s 36-year civil war, said 200,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 others disappeared in the conflict.
Some 96 percent of the rights violations, according to the commission, were committed by the army and the rest by leftist guerrillas.